The flowers were in full bloom, but not in a garden. They bloomed on a sea of hats the Lobero Theatre Associates and guests were wearing for their annual Hats Off Luncheon in the Loggia Room of the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel.

The Lobero Theatre has been a cultural asset for Santa Barbarans for 133 years, receiving support from its associates since 1971. This year’s goal is to buy a newer grand piano, since the old one is apparently not up to the standards of the talent. President Joan Crossland explained, “a new grand piano can cost anywhere from seventy thousand to one hundred twenty thousand dollars and it isn’t broken in.” I didn’t know pianos like old cars – they have to be broken in slowly. So rather than pay the full price, they’ll probably buy a 7- to 9-year-old, ready-to-play piano from a college department.

Joan joked, “we’re building a new house and my husband wanted to buy me a grand piano to replace the old upright. After hearing the prices I think I’ll be getting one from the toy company FAO Schwartz.” We even had grand pianos on the tables –they were cookies.

Gil Rosas played the Biltmore’s grand piano during the social hour. Cameras were flashing, recording all the crowning glories. It reminded me of Easter in the “olden days” when little girls wore fluffy dresses and Mary Janes and all the moms wore hats.

Fitting in with the theme, Dr. Egle Januleviciute, faculty member at UCSB, gave us a mini piano recital. She has done concerts in Belgium, Italy, Finland, Germany, Japan, Lithuania and the former Soviet Union.

Some of those helping President Joan were Leslie Haight, Mari McAlister, corresponding secretary Jane Litchfield, Amy Phillips, past President Meghan Stoll, parliamentarian Maribel Jarchow, Marilyn Schuermann and Betsy Moller. The rest of the outgoing executive board is vice president Lizzie Peus, treasurer Lily Marx and recording secretary Dominique Lacerte.

Hats off to big hearts and grand traditions!

Moms and Love

The fifth annual Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care Mother’s Day Luncheon at the Biltmore was all about honoring and remembering our mothers. Attendees were invited to share a photo of themselves and their mothers, which was compiled into a video presentation during the luncheon.

Guests schmoozed and checked out the silent auction – a Mother’s Day Gift Boutique. Waiters had to clang the bells loudly (in between the fire alarm testing) to try and get the sold out crowd seated in the Loggia Room to dine and watch the program.

Emcee Debby Davison told the audience, “Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care gives away over eight hundred thousand dollars in charity care each year,” with more than 4,000 people benefiting from its services. Emcee Larry Crandell gave kudos to co-chairs Barbara Kummer and Robbin Behrens and silent auction co-chairs Pam Bouer and Judy Murphy. At a recent reception at Rick and Celeste Scheinberg’s, a generous group called Men for Moms underwrote all the expenses for the luncheon. A wish come true for every fundraiser! In five minutes Larry also “coaxed” seven guests to bid $5,000 each for a precious white stuffed “Care Bear.”

The program said, “Surprise,” and it was for a “blown away” News-Press society columnist Lorraine Wilson (and my longtime friend before we were in this business). “I’m stunned,” she proclaimed. Daughter Stephanie was in on the secret that her would be the surprise-honored mother of the event as she presented her with a bouquet of flowers. Lorraine attends countless fundraisers and writes good words about them all.

President and CEO Eileen Bunning thanked executive director Pat Snyder, her staff and the community for 98 years of support. “Hospice is much like mothers who give love, compassion and shelter,” says Bunning. There is a waiting list for the six-bed Serenity House so Visiting Nurse is working on an 18-bed facility to be completed in 2008.

Val Montgomery remembered her parents Edna and Harold Zimmer, who were married for an 75 years. Hospice helped them in their last years. Jennifer Smith Hale (publisher and editorial director of Santa Barbara Magazine and CEO of the new C magazine) honored her mom Anne Smith Towbes and thanked her for many good childhood memories, including all the family dinners, “even though you weren’t a very good cook!” Jennifer gave Anne the 2006 Caring Mother Award – a bronze sculpture done by our own Aris Demetrios.

The following is an excerpt from a song Jeff Barry wrote for the angels of Visiting Nurse:

Some love – some give. Some make this a better place to live, ‘cause some hurt and some are old and some just need a word of hope and a hand to hold…

For more info on Visiting Nurse Hospice Care call 963-6794.

Roses and CALM

Build a rose farm and they will come! Rose Story Farm didn’t begin with pixie dust. It began when Bill and Danielle Hahn planted 1,000 rose bushes on a half acre of their lemon and avocado farm in Carpinteria. Things escalated a bit and they now have 20,000 rose bushes, 120 varieties and have been in national publications such as Martha Stewart Living and Oprah. Rose Story Farm is a favored place to have a fairy tale wedding amid the flowers. CALM (Child Abuse Listening & Mediation) held its fundraiser “Twilight in the Garden” there. Board member and rosarian Dan Bifano was recently on Oprah’s show in her Montecito rose garden, which he designed and maintains.

Co-chairs Donna Barranco-Fisher and Shirley Waxman were beaming as CALM Board members and guests walked up the drive to the Wedding Garden. We had cocktails, munched on hors d’oeuvres (the mini crab cakes were to “die for”) and bid on garden scenes painted by many local artists. Harpist Laurie Rasmussen added to the lush atmosphere. Dinner was served on rose-covered tables on the lawn by the Hahns’ enchanting farmhouse. All was peace and serenity, but Danielle can tell horror stories of broken water pipes and other emergencies that have happened to their grand old home.

As we wined and dined on medallions of beef tenderloin and wasabi potato pancakes, auctioneers Bifano and Mike Edwards auctioned off trips to Maine, Deer Valley, Australia and more. Before ending the evening we were able to walk through the house where roses flourished in every room. What else? CALM was having a Mother’s Day Home & Garden Tour and lunch the next day. According to a brochure, the Hahns say their hope is “to allow you to share in an experience, here on the farm, that has been both romantic and passionate, joyful and sustaining.” In 1970, local nurse Claire Miles created CALM in response to a fatal case of child abuse. For more information call 965-2376.

Her Life So Far

UCSB Arts & Lectures, along with the UCSB Center for Film, Television and New Media gave a reception at the cliff top Hope Ranch home of Alicia Lancashire. The gathering was for Jane Fonda, who spoke at UCSB’s Campbell Hall later that evening. Jane and her small white Madagascar dog Tulea arrived right on time and they both proceeded to charm guests.

Arts and Lectures director Celesta Billeci told us, “Nancy Walker-Koppelman was responsible for bringing Jane here. Of course, Jane had to say yes. She and former husband Tom Hayden had the Laurel Springs Camp north of Santa Barbara for ten years so we welcome her back.”

Fonda, who currently lives in Atlanta, has a new book, “My Life So Far,” that is on The New York Times Best Seller List. Her 1982 fitness video is still the top grossing home video of all time.

Some of those sipping wine, eating quesadillas and fritters or chatting with Jane were Barry and Jelinda DeVorzon, Anne and Hale Milgrim, Holly Palance, UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang, dean of students Yonie Harris, Mary and Gary Becker, Judy and Rob Egenolf, Anna Grotenhuis and Betty Stephens.

We left Alicia’s luxe estate and drove to Campbell Hall for Jane’s lecture. Tulea followed onstage with absolutely no stage fright, confidently sniffed around and finally lay down near the podium for the entire presentation. “I got the dog because I needed something while I was traveling so I wouldn’t miss the grandkids so much,” Fonda confided.

Fonda says she learned a great deal from those years at Laurel Springs Performing Arts Camp. “Girls who had maids making beds shared a cabin with girls who never had a room of their own,” she explained. “Macho Latino gang member wannabes shared a bunkroom with a pale blond boy who suffered from muscular dystrophy. His courage helped the others boys redefine the meaning of being a real man. We adopted a very disturbed twelve-year-old named Lulu. After she came to live with us she told me, ‘I never knew till being here that all mothers don’t beat their children.’ When I asked her why camp was so important, she said it was because it was the first time she’d ever met people who thought about the future.”

Fonda calls this part of her life the Third Act and doesn’t intend to have any more plastic surgery. She looks great. Regarding writing her life story she told the audience, “I didn’t want to be like Christopher Columbus, who didn’t know where he was headed when he left, didn’t know where he was when he got there, and didn’t know where he’d been when he got back. There was lots of material for my book including twenty-two thousand pages of FBI files.” She says she’s sorry for posing on an anti-aircraft gun but not for protesting the Vietnam War.

She admits to suffering from the “Disease to Please” all her life until now – “good enough is good enough,” she settles. She feels if the planet is to survive, women need to lead the way and men need to reclaim their hearts. There was a line of fans all the way out the door waiting to get her to sign their books. And I think I saw Tulea take a small bow at the end!

For more on Arts & Lectures, call director of development Jocelyn Ondre at 893-3449.